The Problem With Belief

Watching a discussion between Dawkins and Krauss (please watch the video on my Fun Media page) and in the Q and A section they talked about how to ‘spread the message’ so to speak (message of science and rationality as opposed to irrationality). However, there is a problem. A true believer cannot be convinced that their belief is wrong OR that science is right. They talked about a lack of scientific knowledge in schools across America, which is a great tragedy. The United States has the most citizens that DENY Evolution and Natural Selection in favor of Religion and put that in science class! If anyone else is as shocked and appalled about this as me you’ll understand my feeling on the topic.
Let me be clear about one thing, personal belief is not my issue. In the US it is a constitutional right to believe in whatever you want. I would not try to take away someone’s personal beliefs BUT when that belief is asserted as true instead of scientific evidence and that is taught to children we as a society are less better off. What do we do about this?

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7 thoughts on “The Problem With Belief

  1. I think that education is definitely a component of how to fix the problem, but the broader problem is exposure. The problem isn’t necessarily the intellect or access to information that deeply religious people have; I think that every religious person questions their faith at some point, and so many people have access to resources online or at libraries. It doesn’t take a lot to poke logical holes in the ideologies and beliefs of most religions. The real problem is that most, if not all, deeply religious people live in bubbles.

    They all live in the same communities. They send their kids to Sunday school, private religious schools, or bible colleges. In short, religious people more often that not are never (and deliberately, I believe) exposed to new ways of thinking. It’s not necessarily what they learn, it’s the fact that they’re taught to never question things or to seek out new information. It’s a social construct passed down to children from their parents. And that’s what makes it so difficult to reason with them. I’m sure if you could sit down for 10 minutes with every religious person and just ask them a few simple questions and give them a few pointed facts, that a great deal of them would change their minds about their beliefs or at least soften or question them.

    But that will never, ever happen, because most religious people have been conditioned psychologically to essentially exist as children with their hands over their ears going “la la la I can’t hear you la la la.” Of course, not EVERY religious person is like that. I know many who aren’t. But I’m talking about the fundamentalist, the person so entrenched in their faith that they would deny science being taught in school in favor of creationism. I don’t see a realistic way to reach other people with any sort of reason.

    • I really like your answer! You have many great points. I am trying to explore ways in which we can get people to accept Evolution, not to replace their belief, but to be something completely separate, if that makes sense. Like you don’t have to choose one or the other. I am happy to say that statistically the fastest growing belief is non-belief 🙂 I often wonder how to introduce new ways of thinking to these secluded societies without having it be violently rejected. I suppose the problem is faith vs. fact. These fundamentalists you mention can’t tell the difference between faith and fact and I would say that it is necessary to teach that difference. Anyway thats my two cents, thanks for contributing yours 🙂

      • No problem! I agree that there’s no reason why the two should necessarily be mutually exclusive. In the case of evolution especially I feel like there are two great obstacles for the rationalist to overcome: 1) There is still a lot of misinformation out there. I can’t tell you how many people I hear say, “If we all come from monkeys then how come there are still monkeys?’ and other assorted falsehoods. But more importantly 2) Evolution is very hard to quantify. I feel like in order to convert the die hard religious person, they would need to be able to physically SEE evolution happening, which isn’t usually possible since evolution in general usually takes many generations to affect the physical appearance or properties of life. Usually when I encounter someone who doesn’t believe in evolution, I ask them if they get a flu shot. If they answer yes, I ask them if they get one every year. If they answer yes again, I ask them why that is? Why do they have to get one every year? Shouldn’t it be one and done? Of course it’s not, because the flu virus changes every year–it evolves. This usually gives evolution a tangible quality.

        • I never thought of that explanation. I think I’ll have to steal that analogy from you! I think if someone were able to figure out how to stop misinformation they would win a Nobel prize. I think the Internet contributes to that misinformation. I mean how many people read and would accept what I say in my blogs (of course I try to back up what I say with research and evidence, if I’m wrong I’d hope someone would correct me)? For every one blog like mine there are at least 10 others that preach religion and other beliefs with no proof or evidence (and they usually contradict one another). It’s also why teachers don’t like you to cite Wikipedia as a source (although fit is great to give you a general idea of something). If you have the time take a look at the Penn and Teller video on creationism. They interview people in a town that all believe in the literal translation of Genesis and won’t accept another view. I think there should be more Atheists and scientists making their work more accessible and understandable to people (which I see happening more and more with YouTube and the Internet in general). In the video I mention they talk about taking discussions between leading scientists to places that don’t accept scientific fact. I think that’d be a good idea even if they only reach one person in each town because that is how it starts.

          • I love it! I will definitely have to look up that video. Thanks for the suggestion!

            I like the idea of bringing science to the communities. Hopefully more of that continues. Even if they only reach 10% of the people we’re talking about, I feel like that would be a great start to some sort of paradigm shift in our society.

          • Its in my Fun Media section 🙂 I think a paradigm shift is what the society in the US needs. The media certainly doesn’t help when all they cover is guns and religion. I was originally born and raised in New Zealand where guns and religion were not primary problems or issues. I wish we had more of that in the US.

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